(FOX 11/ AP) The European Food Safety Authority has found that the artificial sweetener aspartame is safe for people to consume at the levels currently used in diet soft drinks.
After conducting a major review of evidence, the agency said Tuesday it has ruled out any "potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer."
The finding will be welcome news to Coca Cola Co., which recently launched an advertising campaign to dispel fears about Diet Coke after other studies showed that aspartame might be dangerous, leading to a fall in sales.
Aspartame, the sweetener used in Diet Coke, is also known under the brand name NutraSweet.
The ESFA, the European Union's food risk assessment agency, is based in Parma, Italy.
Many studies have looked for health effects in lab animals fed aspartame, often in doses higher than 4,000 mg/kg per day over their lifetimes. These studies have not found any health problems that are consistently linked with aspartame.
Two studies published by a group of Italian researchers suggested that very high doses of aspartame might increase the risk of some blood-related cancers (leukemias and lymphomas) in rats. However, both the FDA and the EFSA have called these results into question, citing a lack of some important data in the published studies and other concerns.
One early study suggested that an increased rate of brain tumors in the US during the 1980s might have been related to aspartame use. However, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the increase in brain tumor rates actually began back in the early 1970s, well before aspartame was in use. And most of the increase was seen in people age 70 and older, a group that was not exposed to the highest doses of aspartame.